Prevention Works: Strengthening Our Kids

From left: Director of Programs Lola Amos, Assistant Director Nicole Storteboom, Executive Director Danielle Sielatycki, Program Facilitator Lenye Tynes, CIS Site Coordinator Precious Miller, and Program Coordinator Katie MacDonald.

 

Today we highlight Prevention Works, honored with a 2017 Champ Award. The non-profit’s Champ award was sponsored by Borgess. CIS Board member Carolyn H. Williams presented the award.

A healthy start and a healthy future is one of the five basics that Communities In Schools believes every child needs and deserves in order to be the best student and the best person they can be. For more than a decade, CIS has turned to Prevention Works to help us create stronger, healthier students and families throughout the Kalamazoo Public Schools.

We count on Prevention Works to deliver evidence-based prevention programs that are both engaging and educational. They address substance abuse prevention, violence prevention, bullying, family life skills, parenting, sexual health and adolescent health, and they encourage young people and their families to make wise decisions and live healthy lives.

Spring Valley Center for Exploration students participating in Prevention Works program as part of CIS After School.

 

Hillside Middle School’s CIS Site Coordinator Precious Miller works closely with Prevention Works Program Director Lola Amos to connect just the right programs to the right students and classrooms. She says, “Prevention Works staff helps our students get in touch with what they’re dealing with at home and school—to put a language to what they’re experiencing. Students learn that it’s okay to share that information with those they trust, that we are here for them.”

Prevention Works at Hillside Middle School. From left: Program Facilitator Lenye Tynes, Director of Programs Lola Amos, KPS Principal Atiba McKissack, CIS Site Coordinator Precious Miller, and Prevention Works Program Coordinator Katie MacDonald.

When Prevention Works Katie McDonald and Lenye Tynes stepped into Hillside classrooms, lives changed. As one student said, “I’m not bullied anymore. They helped the bully and they helped me.” He says his grades have improved since he’s able to focus on learning and no longer worries about what will happen once he steps outside the school. “Prevention Works is an incredible resource for our students,” says Precious.

CIS Site Coordinator January Haulenbeek agrees. When she was looking to meet the needs of a group of Northglade Montessori Magnet School students—all boys, ranging from first through third grade—she turned to Prevention Works. “Sure enough,” January says, “they provided the perfect facilitator. As a recent college graduate and young professional, Matt quickly built rapport with the students. The boys looked forward to their weekly meetings with Matt. He inspired them to dream big. He helped them take responsibility for their futures by focusing them on decisions and choices they could control.”

Victoria, a seventh grader at Hillside has been a huge fan of Prevention Works since her elementary days. “Prevention Works teaches different things,” she explains, “like how to handle peer pressure and how to be responsible. They’ve taught us how to turn down alcohol and other substances. They’ve taught us how to communicate better.”

Ever since her site coordinator connected her to the Strengthening Families Program, Victoria notices the change in her own family. “We compromise more,” she says. “My mother and I went through all seven weeks and my sister and dad came twice with us. We all talk more as a family. We try and see things from each other’s point of view.”

Prevention Works, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

Carolyn H. Williams (at podium) presenting the Champ Award as representatives from Prevention Works look on. From left: Executive Director Danielle Sielatycki, Program Director Lola Amos, Assistant Director Nicole Storteboom, Board Member Lisa Salay, Program Facilitator Lenye Tynes, and Program Coordinator Katie MacDonald.
CIS board member Carolyn H. Williams looks on as Executive Director Danielle Sielatycki is congratulated by Borgess sponsor representative and Chief Development Officer of Borgess Foundation Tony McDonnell on Prevention Works 2017 Champ Award.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Story of Success: The Gift of Achievement

dakarieon booth

For eighth grader DeKarieon, the CIS support he’s received over the past three years at Hillside Middle School has done more than put him on the road to success in school and life. He’s also giving back by assisting other students and connecting them to CIS so they can get on track too.

“CIS has helped me with school,” he says. “I’m doing better academically. It’s helped me adjust my attitude and control my anger.” Upon meeting this calm and steady young man, it’s hard to imagine that behavior could have gotten in the way of his academics, but it did. “I would get in a couple of fights here and there,” explains DeKarieon. “My attitude, my anger, it just got in the way and I’d always be off.”

What made the difference? Getting connected to CIS. “Especially [CIS After School Coordinator] Ms. Katherine. She helped me mellow out…And then I could focus and get my homework done. I left for a while,” admits DeKarieon, as his desire to play sports conflicted with the after school support. “But then my grades started slipping again. I really want to get past high school and so I decided to come back…people like [CIS Youth Development Workers] Ms. Jay and Mr. Alex, they really helped me understand my homework and keep me focused.”

Through CIS, DeKarieon has learned to tap into his strengths to help him calm himself down and focus. “I’ll read a book, draw, or write.” DeKarieon notices a positive difference but says he isn’t yet where he wants to be. As he puts it, “I’m only half-way there.”

DeKarieon’s hard work is not going unnoticed. Ms. Jessica Jeffrey, who has been his science teacher for the past two years notes, “DeKarieon is a wonderful, polite, hard-working student. He has shown much growth and maturity in the time that I have known him. I am very proud of his accomplishments and I look forward to seeing all of the wonderful things he will do in the years to come!”

Precious Miller, CIS Site Coordinator at Hillside says, “DeKarieon is a true leader. He’s brought in several of his peers to my office. Some are in need of school supplies or some other basic need, others need snacks and some kind of support. He also advocates for students he thinks could benefit from the CIS After School Program.”

CIS After School Coordinator Katherine agrees. “He shines,” she says. “If he sees a student going off the rails, especially the younger ones, he speaks up. He’ll say, ‘Come on guys. Quiet down and listen.’ DeKarieon really is a leader. He is a kind person. He’s sensitive to other people’s feelings, and he reaches out to them.”

Empowered to succeed, thanks to the combined investment of his school, a supportive family, and the community working through CIS, DeKarieon’s future looks bright. Upon graduating from high school, DeKarieon is looking forward to taking advantage of The Kalamazoo Promise. He loves to write and tell stories and one day hopes to become a published author. He plans to attend Western Michigan University and study journalism.

If this is what “half-way there” looks like—striving to be his best as a student, exploring his gifts as an artist, writer, and musician, and helping others along the way—we can’t wait to see what it looks like when DeKarieon reaches the finish line!

All of the great work you’ve been reading about is made possible by people like you who volunteer and partner with or donate to CIS. Please invest in local students and be a part of more success stories like DaKarieon’s.

Make a gift to CIS today.

This story was featured in our 2015-16 Annual Report. Click here to read the full report. 

Pop Quiz: DeKarieon Booth

20161101-dsc_0272Welcome back to the POP QUIZ! This is a regular, yet totally unexpected, feature where we ask students, parents, staff, our friends, and partners to answer a few questions about what they are learning, reading, and thinking about. Today we feature DeKarieon Booth, an eighth grader at Hillside Middle School. You’ll be able to learn more about DeKarieon as he is featured in the CIS annual report that will be out soon!

Alright, DeKarieon: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?
Lunar equations. It’s like algebra but you have to substitute a number for a letter.

Favorite word?
Petulant. It’s another word you can use for petty. My mom, she got tired of us going around the house and calling each other petty, so she gave us a new word for it.

What are you currently reading?
I’m reading Keeper of the Lost Cities: Never Seen. It’s part of a series book written by Shannon Messenger.

Thinking back through the years, who has been one of your favorite teachers?
Mrs. [Holly] Bishop at Arcadia [Elementary School]. She helped me through some rough times I was having with a couple of other kids. Also, instead of going outside some days, she let me start a book club. That was fun.

Also, Ms. [Jessica] Jeffrey. She’s my science teacher here at Hillside. She lets us do a lot of great things. She’s always pushing us to do better.

You have the Kalamazoo Promise. What are your plans upon graduating from high school?
I want to go to Western Michigan University and become a journalist and a book writer.

What’s inspired you to lean in this direction?
I just really like books and if I read a book I really like and the author hasn’t come up with another book, I’m already off and creating the next book.

CIS After School Coordinator Ms. Katherine describes you as someone who possesses ‘intellectual curiosity.’ Is she right?
That’s true.

What are you curious about?
I’m curious about school work and grades and how I can do better. I’m curious about the groups and clubs we do at CIS, whether it’s lifting weights or doing art.

Both CIS Site Coordinator Precious Miller and CIS After School Coordinator Katherine Williamson say you are a great advocate for CIS. What advice do you have for students who might be in need of support?
If they need something, they need to ask for help. And if they don’t know what to do, I’d tell them to go to someone who knows how to help them. They can turn to CIS. At Hillside, they just need to go to Ms. Precious or Ms. Katherine.

Behind every successful student is a caring adult. Who is your caring adult?
My mom. She wants the best for us. She didn’t go to college and wants us to be the first in the family to go to college.

Thank you, DeKarieon!

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DeKarieon Booth in center. From left to right: CIS AmeriCorps VISTA Terra Mosqueda, CIS Site Coordinator Precious Miller, KPS Teacher Ms. Jessica Jeffrey, and CIS After School Coordinator Katherine Williamson.

 

 

Pop Quiz: O’Neal Ollie  

O'Neal Ollie
O’Neal Ollie, CIS Success Coach at Loy Norrix High School

Welcome back to the POP QUIZ! This is a regular, yet totally unexpected, feature where we ask students, parents, staff, our friends, and partners to answer a few questions about what they are learning, reading, and thinking about. Today we feature O’Neal Ollie who is the CIS Success Coach at Loy Norrix High School. CIS Success Coaches allow Communities In Schools to have a larger footprint in larger schools. CIS Success Coaches are an extension—a more expansive one—of the case management model. It allows CIS to delve more deeply into a school, to meet student needs. For students who need a moderate degree of support, having that one-on-one coaching support from O’Neal Ollie can be the tipping point that gets them over the hump and on the road to graduation.

A graduate of Kalamazoo Central High School, O’Neal then headed to school in Riverside, California and later returned to Kalamazoo, graduating in Sports Management from Western Michigan University. Today, O’Neal and his wife Terri are proud KPS parents of son Bass, a senior at Kalamazoo Central High School who is also enrolled in college, and daughter, Symphony, who graduated from Kalamazoo Central, was honored by the YWCA in 2014 as a Young Women of Achievement, and is now in her third year at Michigan State University. O’Neal notes that “it’s my wife Terri who keeps all of us on track.”

Alright, Coach Ollie: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

POP QUIZ

O'Neal with Dareon, CIS Alumni
O’Neal with Dareon, CIS Alumni

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

Oh, my goodness. I learn so much stuff. For a person that thinks he knows everything, well, that is a tough one. Okay, I learned about dual enrollment. That is the process of enrolling a student in college while they are still completing high school with eligibility to play high school sports. My son is a senior at Kalamazoo Central and plays three sports.

Favorite word?

At this time of the year, it is football because my son is in his senior year.

What are you currently reading?

Sports Illustrated, because of the Olympics, which were so good with swimming, gymnastics, and track.

You graduated from Kalamazoo Central. Thinking back to your years with the Kalamazoo Public Schools, who was one of your favorite teachers?

Vern Davis and Clarence Gardener. Also, Coach Don Jackson. He taught PE, probably one of my biggest mentors in school. Mr. Davis was a math teacher and Mr. Gardner was general business & accounting. Both coached as well.

My counselor was Nelson Stevenson and he was my main man. He enrolled me in Upward Bound. That was my introduction to college. We stayed on Western’s campus-in Bigelow Hall-for eight weeks. I learned the social aspects of college and thought, this is going to be great! I have life-long friends that I made from attending Outward Bound.

Mr. Davis made you feel so good about yourself. He made it easy to learn. It probably helped that he was a former NFL player. He played for the Philadelphia Eagles and was All-American. I had his class fourth hour. “Don’t ever make me come look for you,” he’d say.

Coach Gardiner’s business and accounting was the most useful class I’ve ever taken. I still write my checks the way he taught me in school. When I went to college, I majored in accounting until I changed to sports management.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I’ve always been interested in school and sports administration. But, regardless of all I’m doing work-wise, I can’t forget I’m a dad. I learn a lot from my son and daughter.

Montrell Baker, CIS Site Coordinator at Loy Norrix, with O'Neal
Montrell Baker, CIS Site Coordinator at Loy Norrix, with O’Neal

Like what?

Things I never expected to learn, like, what it means to go prom dress shopping. That is a whole process and it’s a family event.

Behind every successful student is a caring adult. Who is your caring adult?

My mom, my second mom, and my third mom. I have eight older siblings and my oldest sister, Ida Buchanan, was a secretary in my building when I was in high school. I would much rather my mother than my sister Ida get a hold of me. She did not play. Still doesn’t. She still works, going between Hillside and Linden Grove Middle School.

My mom, I always appreciated how hard she worked and the way she had a way of breaking things down to make us understand things. One of my favorite quotes she said was when I came home crying one day. “You’re crying because folks are talking about you?” she said. “You start crying when folks stop talking about you.”

Thank you, Coach Ollie!

We continue to talk about O’Neal Ollie in our soon to be released newsletter, CIS Connections. O’Neal and his CIS site team member, CIS Site Coordinator Montrell Baker, share their insights about helping students get on track to graduation. And if you missed Montrell’s interview with Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids, you can read it here.

Pop Quiz: Precious Miller

Welcome back to the POP QUIZ! This is a regular, yet totally unexpected, feature where we ask students, parents, staff, our friends, and partners to answer a few questions about what they are learning, reading, and thinking about. During the last week of school, a beautiful June day, we sat down with Precious Miller, who was wrapping up her first year as the Communities In Schools Site Coordinator at Hillside Middle School.

FB_IMG_1467148577246 (2)In 2010, Precious interned with CIS at Kalamazoo Central High School. She later served as a Youth Development Worker for the 2011 CIS Think Summer! program. With her Bachelors and Masters in Social Work from Western Michigan University, Precious served as a case manager with Casemanagement of Michigan before rejoining the CIS team in October 2015, this time as a CIS Site Coordinator for Hillside Middle School. This past January, Precious and her husband (and former CIS Site Coordinator), Derek Miller, welcomed their son, Kai, into the world.

As we were about to spring this quiz on Precious, Shania Armstrong, a sixth grader looking forward to CIS Think Summer!, popped into Ms. Miller’s office. When she learned her site coordinator was being interviewed for the blog, she had this to say: “She’s an awesome person. She’s nice and I like her a lot. She makes me smile. Since I’ve met her, she’s been building up my confidence…”

Alright, Ms. Miller: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

I’m learning how to balance caring for my kids at school and caring for my son at home.

What’s the secret?

Leaving school at school and being present in the moment. I practice mindfulness. When I’m with Kai, I catch myself thinking about the kids and all I need to do at school, and then it’s flip-flopped when I’m with the students. So, I remind myself to stay in the moment.

Favorite word right now?

I’m going to go with awesome because I hear it at least twice a day and I say it 10,000 times a day. If I see two kids skipping class, I say, “I see two awesome kids going to class.” And they do.

What are you currently reading?

I’m just about to start reading In a Rocket Made of Ice by Gail Gutradt. My VISTA, Terra, gave it to me. It’s about children growing up with AIDS. I understand that AmeriCorps ties into it, servicing a community that needs advocacy.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I want to be a community changer, starting with one student at a time. My work doesn’t stop—whether I’m here or not. It can happen at the grocery store, the park, anywhere, and I’ll see kids that need a little reminder that they’re awesome.

Behind every successful student is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?

Diane McKinney. She was my inspiration when I attended Creston High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She was the school social worker. I remember going to her office every day at lunch. And while I didn’t need anything in particular, I remember I just wanted to be with her. I loved how she nurtured my becoming a woman and I can’t even articulate how she did it. It was really her presence that spoke to me. I love how she cared for me.

I can’t help but think about that young woman, Shania, and what she had to say about you. Here you are now, giving back in a manner similar to Ms. McKinney.

I had no idea I did that for Shania. Like so many kids, she just needs a little bit of hope in realizing who she is.

Thank you, Precious!

Over this past school year, we’ve introduced you to members of the wonderful CIS Site Team at Hillside. We kicked it off with Principal McKissack. If you missed the post, you can find it here. Read about CIS After School Coordinator Katherine Williamson here and CIS AmeriCorps VISTA Terra Mosqueda here. Former Youth Development Workers Nicholas Keen and Fred Myles were also featured. Nicholas won’t be returning in the new school year as he has relocated to Hawaii to accept a teaching position, and Fred’s business has really taken off. Good for them, but our loss! While we and our kids will miss them both, we wish them all the best.

Hillside and other schools need energetic and enthusiastic youth development workers to serve in an after school setting (Monday through Thursday). Help us recruit for kids! If you or someone you know might be right for the job, go here.

Pop Quiz: Fred Myles

Welcome back to the POP QUIZ! This is a regular, yet totally unexpected, feature where we ask students, parents, staff, our friends, and partners to answer a few questions about what they are learning, reading, and thinking about. Today we feature Fred Myles.

A native of Kalamazoo, Fred or “Mr. Fred” as the students know him around Hillside Middle School, is in his second year as a Youth Development Worker (YDW) with Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo. Fred has a wide range of interests, from college sports, to movies, traveling, and collecting toys from the 1980s. He also happens to be cousins with Carl Myles, retired Principal from Kalamazoo Central High School.

As a Youth Development Worker, Fred, like his title implies, develops the strengths and talents of youth by involving and empowering students in their own growth. “I’m accountable for the students we have each day, facilitating the daily schedule for the students we have enrolled in the program.” What Fred loves best about his job? “I love seeing kids opening up and wanting to be successful.”

Alright, Mr. Fred: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

I guess I’ve always known this but it’s only in my later years that I more fully recognize this: be accountable. Nobody but you can be responsible for yourself. And it’s important to focus in on something, to be responsible.

 

What one thing would you tell somebody who is considering being a Youth Development Worker with Communities In Schools?

Have patience. This work takes tremendous patience. Results with kids aren’t immediate. I see myself as a seed planter. The results may come at the end of the day, the week, the year, or even thirty years from now. All I know is I’m planting a seed. Someone else is watering that seed, and eventually someone else will see that child blooms. I just may not be the one to see it.

 

What are you currently reading?

Miracle Boys by Jacqueline Woodson. As part of CIS After School, I facilitate a book club every Thursday. Right now, we’re reading Miracle Boys. I’m enjoying it and it’s great to see so many of the students enjoying it. Some of these same students didn’t want to do the book club, refused to participate at first, but then after giving them a choice, letting them know that if we do this for half an hour then we can incorporate something they want to do, well, that helped. And now they’re reading and enjoying it. That’s gratifying.

 

What’s your favorite word right now?

Success.

 

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I’ve kind of already done that. I went to school for marketing and advertising. During the day I run my own marketing business, and then in the afternoons I come here to Hillside to work with the students.

 

Behind every successful student is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?

My wife. She is supportive and she also holds me accountable. This benefits me and my business.

 

Thank you, Fred!

Our kids need more Youth Development Workers, enthusiastic and energetic individuals like Fred, to step up and serve in an after school setting (Monday through Thursday) and in our CIS Think Summer program. If you or someone you know might be right for the job, go here.

Pop Quiz: Terra Mosqueda

Welcome back to the POP QUIZ! This is a regular, yet totally unexpected, feature where we ask students, parents, staff, our friends, and partners to answer a few questions about what they are learning, reading, and thinking about. Today we feature another member of the Communities In Schools site team at Hillside Middle School, Terra Mosqueda. Embarking on her second year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA with CIS, her work spans between Loy Norrix High School (three days a week) and Hillside (two days a week).

Terra grew up in Rockford, Michigan and it was college that brought her to Kalamazoo. She started at Western Michigan University studying Child and Family Development and then decided to change her focus. After taking some classes at Kalamazoo Valley Community College she decided to take a year off and try something else other than school.

“Being a VISTA has made me lean more towards social work,” Terra says. “School has always been my biggest obstacle. I didn’t try very hard in high school. And I want to work to make sure kids don’t go down my same path. Honestly, I never thought I’d be in a school again! But I really enjoy the relationships I’m making, especially with the students. Being a VISTA gives me opportunities to try new things. I get to talk to people I’ve never thought I’d have a chance to talk with by being in the schools.”

Like her other colleagues who are VISTAs with Communities In Schools, Terra helps nourish a college-going culture. To this end, she has planned college trips for Loy Norrix students and at Hillside she’s created a “college window” that she changes every few weeks.IMG_2940

She orders food from CIS partner Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes to keep the food pantry stocked. She makes sure CIS Kids’ Closet is organized and filled with essentials, like clothing, hygiene, and school supplies.IMG_2938

Terra works with her CIS site teams to assure a smooth delivery of dental services offered to students through the Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services and their “Smiles to Go” van. She also supports the CIS After School program. “I’ve gotten really close to the kids. They’ve really grown on me.”


Alright, Terra: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

It’s not so much something I’ve learned as something that I’ve opened up to. and that is that no two kids have the same learning style. If two kids are sitting next to each other and I show one how to do a math problem, that same approach may not work for the other student. I have to bend my mind and think of other ways to help that child. At the same time, this helps me in that I expand and come up with new ways of thinking.

 

What are you currently reading?

With a Pistol in his Hand by Americo Paredes. It is about Gregorio Cortez, a Mexican outlaw still known to this day. When Gregorio eventually dies, he does so in my great-grandfathers house; it’s mentioned in one of the chapters. It’s a really interesting read, and I get to learn a little more about what my great grandfather experienced in his life with his compadre, Gregorio Cortez.

 

What’s your favorite word right now?

Go. I always say “Go” to the kids as a way to encourage them to be in the right classroom, do their homework, and such. “Go” is both encouraging and demanding. It’s the best of both worlds!

 

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I’m really leaning towards social work. It’s so important to keep kids in good environments. I want to help them graduate with the Kalamazoo Promise and do what they want to accomplish in life.

 

Behind every successful student is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?

My mom and dad, equally. My mom was the caring one and my dad helped me by pushing me. They had the good cop-bad cop thing going on and it worked well on me.

 

Thank you, Terra!

Are you or someone you know interested in becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA? The next group of AmeriCorps VISTA members will come on board in August. To find out more, go here.

In the weeks to come, we’ll introduce you to Fred Myles and Precious Miller, two more CIS team members from Hillside. In the meantime, if you missed the  post about Principal McKissack, you can read it by clicking here. You can read about Katherine Williamson, Hillside’s CIS After School Coordinator, by going here. To learn about Nicholas Keen, Youth Development Worker at Hillside, go here.

Poetry Fuels Young Minds

We can’t let April slip by without a nod to poetry. Whether a student is reading and writing poetry in April or December, poetry enhances literacy, builds community, aids in creative problem solving, and fosters social-emotional resilience. Students who have disengaged from learning because of problems outside of the classroom can often be re-engaged through poetry.

On the heels of the hugely successful Kalamazoo Poetry Festival, it’s clear poetry is alive and well throughout the city (and beyond). Here now are six reasons we know poetry is fueling the minds of some of our 12,000+ students, who are tapping into this ancient art form to learn about themselves and the world around them.

1. CIS AmeriCorps VISTA Nicholas Baxter believes in the power of poetry. He shares his talent and passion for poetry within the Kalamazoo Public Schools, running a poetry workshop at Arcadia Elementary School. Every Thursday, budding poets spend their lunchtime reading, writing, and learning about poetry. Here is Nicholas with (left to right) Roziya Rustamova, Aceanna Williams, Nabaa Eyddan, and Reem Ahmed.

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2.  If you didn’t get the chance to read Tristan Pierce’s poem, “Time Waits 4 No Man!” then head over to CIS Connections and read it now because, as this Parkwood student reminds us, time waits for no one.

3.  As a CIS volunteer, I recently had the pleasure of stepping into Woods Lake Elementary: A Magnet Center for the Arts and offering a poetry lesson to Mrs. Shannon Parlato’s third graders. I couldn’t help but think of Mrs. Parlato as a literacy warrior. 

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Like all great teachers, she sets clear boundaries for her students while maintaining a sense of fun and fueling their desire to learn. Every one of her students actively participated in the poetry workshop and wrote at least one poem. Woods Lake’s CIS Site Coordinator Maureen Cartmill, impressed with the students’ creativity, said, “Poetry really brings home how important and enriching vocabulary can be.”                                                                   

4.  This past March, 30 Kalamazoo Public School students read their original poems at Chenery Auditorium as part of the inaugural Spoken Word Middle School Poetry event. Superintendent Michael Rice noted that, by sharing their poems that evening, students offered the audience “a sense of who they are and how they are going to have an impact on their world.” You can read more about the event and watch the performances by going here.

5.  Friends of Poetry, an almost 40-year old organization which promotes the reading and writing of poetry throughout the greater Kalamazoo area, is gobbling up poems students throughout the area sent for consideration in their annual “Poems That Ate Our Ears” contest. While winners haven’t been announced yet, we can’t help but think of what Hillside Middle School Principal McKissack said upon reflecting on Hillside’s strong showing at the second annual MLK “Courage to Create” Celebration.

Principal McKissack out at WMU with Hillside students and staff

A number of his students made it to the semi-finalist round, read their work at Western Michigan University and took a number of top prizes in the poetry competition. He was proud, “not of the winning part, but I was overjoyed by the hard work they put into getting there—the reading, studying, the questions they asked. They didn’t give up.”

Young people, through poetry, are putting their voice out into the world. That’s a brave, beautiful, and winning act in itself.

6.  Consider this group poem, written by Mrs. Shannon Parlato’s third grade students:

Recipe for Success

First, take twenty dabs of sleep and let gently rest.

Then take food and water and pour it into a cup.

Add a lifetime of teachers for a heaping harvest

of education so that we can use the Promise

to get the career we love.

After a good long day, roll up in a blanket.

Dream of what we’ve accomplished.